By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
It was James Weldon Johnson, a gifted African-American writer of the 1920s, who best described the futility of getting upset with God. In his sermon The Prodigal Son, he wrote: "Young man, young man, your arms are too short to box with God!"
Someone should have told that to Gideon, who was told that God had chosen him to lead the nation of Israel back to God.
The angel of God said, "The Lord is with you." But Gideon responded, "I doubt it! If the Lord is with us, then why has so much trouble come to Israel? Where are all these wonderful deeds our parents and grandparents told us about? Did God bring us out of Egypt to forget us and forsake us?"
Strong words, from a man who had seen much suffering.
When Gideon finished ranting, the angel said, "This is precisely the reason I’ve come. You have been chosen to be the person to do something about it! You are hereby commissioned!"
Then, perhaps, Gideon got a sinking feeling and wished he had kept his mouth shut. He started making excuses: "Me? How could I ever save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house."
That did not deter God. The 34th verse says it all: "The Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon."
This Scripture speaks to us today because, like Gideon, we question God’s whereabouts when we look at events in the world, our nation, our churches, and even our personal lives.
Why not blame it all on God? Where are you, God? Why do you allow evil to prosper and good to suffer?
Miracles are not always found in burning bushes, lion dens, and fiery furnaces. God’s miraculous work is also found in lives like yours and mine. Gideon’s story reveals how God uses all of us to bring about change.
God has chosen you—yes, you—to be a change agent, to make the world better. God is always reaching out and commissioning some Gideon to be the means of change. "The Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon." This truth is exciting! If lives are going to be transformed and churches reborn and renewed, we must allow the Spirit of God to take possession of us.
Every person is possessed by some spirit, serving some idea, contributing to some result. The differences between people are in what and whom we serve.
In an often-quoted passage, Australian theologian F.W. Boreham brought up this concept of God taking possession of someone. He pointed to the year 1809. Napoleon was on the march. It seemed everyone in the world was thinking of war.
But in that same year, Boreham noticed, God was at work in a quiet and most unusual way.
Babies were being born who grew to influence the world far more than the battles of Napoleon.
Charles Darwin, the naturalist, was born in England. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky; Frederick Chopin, in Poland; and Felix Mendelssohn, in Germany. William Gladstone, the great statesman and prime minister of England, was born in Liverpool that year, as well as Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, the great poet and laureate, born in a parsonage in Somersby.
The news of that year reported nothing about them. All the world was concerned with Napoleon. However, the babies born in 1809 included those who were possessed by God to do God’s work.
So Boreham wrote, "When a wrong wants righting, or a work wants doing, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby in the world to do it!"
I understand! God chose to send a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes to change the world! Now I comprehend the words Jesus used when he began his ministry, as recorded in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the prisoner go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
This leads me to a question that I hope lingers in you:
Are you willing to allow the Spirit of the Lord to take possession of you, so that you may receive a revelation of what God is calling you to do?
God already has gifted you for something no one else can do. Is your life open and available for God to put your gifts to use? God needs you now for such a time as this!
My fervent hope is that generations not yet born will open a journal someday and read this truth: "In the year 2011, the Spirit of the Lord took possession of the people called United Methodists in Oklahoma, and they changed the world."
I truly believe it can happen! If not us, who?